Petition to Cancel the Amarnath Yatra in Kashmir During India's COVID Disaster

Petition to Cancel the Amarnath Yatra in Kashmir During India's COVID Disaster

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Ruthless Collective started this petition to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and

As the world battles the COVID-19 Pandemic, many nations and communities have been making decisions to close a number of events and gatherings. Multiple countries have so far enforced special restrictions on Christmas and Easter gatherings since the start of the Pandemic. Countries such as the United States, Singapore, the UK, France, Canada, Bhutan, among many more throughout the world have also had to make decisions to restrict days of religious and cultural significance for public safety. For example, Mexico celebrated the El Día de Los Muertos in November 2020 privately at home without giant public parades and general grandeur. Similarly, other countries have also had to make difficult decisions for their populations who traditionally hold varying religious gatherings that attract large numbers of people.

India holds an Amarnath Yatra, which is a pilgrimage of religious significance at a shrine in Jammu & Kashmir. This pilgrimage journey brings 600,000 people into the region every year. It is expected to travel through Kashmir around this time of year but has not been cancelled in light of India’s current COVID-19 crisis. This poses a severe threat to Indigenous people, and the pilgrims themselves – many of whom are traditionally elderly and are at a much higher likelihood of infection, super-spreading and mortality.

Worldwide media has covered that India has not cancelled this year's Kumbh Mela, a festival which holds religious significance, despite a huge surge in COVID cases and continual recommendations by international health agencies and law makers to restrict social gatherings of all kinds. As a result, staggering results of COVID positive tests are occurring. In fact, 99% of pilgrims returning to Madhya Pradesh from the Kumbh Mela have tested COVID-19 positive upon return in a sample group. This has created a super-spreading scenario which further implicates the already uncontrollable and dire circumstances of a crumbling healthcare system, lack of PPE and medical supplies and oxygen that Indian citizens are facing.


Why Kashmir?

Kashmir is already under-resourced and not equipped to handle the COVID-19 Pandemic given its heavily compromised healthcare infrastructure, a lack of internet stability, frequent curfews and the heavy presence of military personnel. It is critical to note here that much of these challenges have been perpetrated by the Indian State. According to WHO, Kashmir’s health stats currently include 1 doctor per 1,638 people against a norm of one doctor for a 1,000 population, which is already concerning on average without Kashmir’s statistics. There are currently also only 600 ventilators for 12 million people. In addition, there are only 23 hospitals with approximately 7000 beds for COVID-19 patients and a 700% rise in COVID-19 cases with 199 deaths in April (Made in Kashmir). If there is an influx of general populations penetrating into the region, this could be a complete healthcare disaster for Indigenous populations within the region who are already suffering and have received minimal support from the Indian government. 


Indian relations with Kashmir are known internationally as volatile. In fact, Kashmir has been internationally recognized as an Occupied region for many years. Recently, their special status of autonomy was compromised by the revocation of Article 370 from the Indian Constitution. These implications also must be considered and they attest to how crucial it is for allies around the world to include Kashmir in their advocacy efforts to avoid a complete healthcare catastrophe.


Currently in India, over 400,000 people (BNO Newsroom) are infected per day, and death tolls which are likely an underreported number that surpass 3,200 people a day contribute to a quickly mortality rate of 200,000 nationwide (CNBC). 

We urge Indians in the diaspora, world citizens and governments around the world to sign this petition requesting the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) and the Federal Government to cancel the pilgrimage this year. Additionally, we ask Indian citizens to encourage each other and their elders to not go on this pilgrimage. Suspensions by the SASB may be up in the air, but there needs to be a firm cancellation under these dire circumstances to avoid super-spreading of the COVID-19 virus that is already causing a healthcare carnage in India.

 

Sources:

Kashmir Bylines, Made in Kashmir, Stand with Kashmir, The Guardian, Hindustan Times, NY Times, Times Now News

0 have signed. Let’s get to 7,500!
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